UN campaign to support adolescent girls in Rajasthan

Washington: United Nations Foundation's Girl Up campaign, supporing the empowerment of girls everywhere in the world, is expanding its fundraising efforts to help protect the rights of adolescent girls in India.

The first new programme support country added since Girl Up began almost five years ago kicks off a Mother's Day fundraising campaign aimed at supporting adolescent girls in India's Rajasthan state.

Funding will help United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reach 7,500 girls a year in Rajasthan to protect their rights, ensure their education and prevent child marriage and early pregnancy, a media release said.

"As we continue to work to improve the lives of the hardest to reach girls living in the places where it's hardest to be a girl, I am excited that Girl Up is expanding the campaign to India," said Melissa Hillebrenner, Director of Girl Up.

India has one of the fastest growing youth populations in the world, with one-fourth of that population made up of adolescent girls, said the group with girl advocates in 66 countries.

Within the family, however, girls often receive less health care, education and fewer opportunities than boys, as they are often forced to drop out of school, marry, and have children at a young age, it noted.

Seventy percent of girls ages 6 to 16 drop out of school. One-third of women alive today who were married before 18 years old reside in India.

With this new initiative, Girl Up will support UNFPA's Action for Adolescent Girls initiative in Rajasthan.

The programme seeks to protect adolescent girls' rights and help girls delay marriage and wait to have children until they are ready.

The programme educates girls and women on important health issues and makes them more aware of public services available to them.

It also aims to educate girls - both those in school and those who are not - as well as provide them with vocational skills so they are able to one day earn an income.

Highlights of the programme include: offering youth-friendly health and nutrition information, creating a network of adolescent peer educators for girls to meet and learn from one another and connecting girls with mentors.

It also covers training basic life skills, including home-based and vocational skills, to help girls earn an income and play a greater role in their communities; supporting enrolment in formal and non-formal educational institutions.

Giving girls information and access to public services available to them and educating married adolescent girls on sexual and reproductive health issues is another facet of the programme.

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